Rob Craigie and Deb Fish on Bellino © Rick Tomlinson
Epic duels in the Sevenstar Round Britain & Ireland Race
At 1000 BST on Day 11, sixteen teams have rounded Muckle Flugga and turned their bows south into the North Sea. Finally the majority of the fleet are enjoying fast downwind conditions. Four teams are still to round the lighthouse on the rocky outcrop on the 61st Parallel. Rob Craigie & Deb Fish racing Sun Fast 3600 Bellino are the latest team in pole position for the best corrected time under IRC. At least seven teams in IRC Two-Handed are still very much in contention for overall glory. Three Class40s are having an intense and tactical battle in the North Sea and Pip Hare's Imoca Medallia is 140 miles from the finish and expected to take Line Honours tonight - Wednesday 17th August.
Epic duel in IRC Two-Handed
Rob Craigie racing Sun Fast 3600 Bellino with Deb Fish is ranked first in IRC Overall and in IRC Two-Handed. Second in the ranking is Richard Palmer's Jangada racing with Rupert Holmes. Nick Martin's Sun Fast 3600 Diablo is third. However, the battle in the double-handed warriors is not just among the top three; the class win and potentially overall victory is still wide open.
Sam White & Sam North racing JPK 1080 Mzungu! was the first Two-Handed team to round Muckle Flugga and was second after time correction. However, Mzungu! hit a wind hole just as the pair were readying for the downwind sleigh ride. The close nature of the race was exemplified by the fact that by just hitting one wind hole, it sent the team from second to fourth in a matter of a few hours. Mzungu! is the highest rated boat of the leading pack and has especially been battling through thick and thin for 11 days with Bellino. As Mzungu! wallowed in the wind hole, Bellino escaped to lead Mzungu! on the water by 11 miles.
"We are busy in the chase with Mzungu!," commented Deb Fish from on board Bellino. "We are having such an incredibly close race, it's unbelievable. It's been like match racing and that has really kept us motivated, but everything is hard at 30 degrees of heel; getting your boots on, your jumper on and even going to the heads is a nightmare."
"It's been such an epic race so far. We've seen Bellino other than when it was foggy since the start of the race," said Sam White from on board Mzungu! "What a marathon battle, we've literally been cat and mouse, covering each other, working the boat up to its maximum."
Class40 battle in North Sea
After rounding Muckle Flugga, leading Class40 James McHugh's Tquila gybed onto port and headed south east into the North Sea. Greg Leonard's Kite followed for about 80 miles and then split onto starboard gybe heading south west. Tquila maintained their course for about three hours before gybing when the two converged. Kite looked to have gained about eight miles. Tquila still holds the lead by nine miles. James Stableford's Mussulo 40 headed south east after rounding Muckle Flugga and has stayed on port gybe for 190 miles.
While the gradient wind is currently from the north, it is decreasing in speed and the split gybes are probably a result of searching for the best wind lines. By tomorrow the wind is forecast to go south and increase to over 20 knots. However, the centre of this high pressure system is directly on the rhumb line. Mussulo 40 will have sailed many more miles but may get fast downwind conditions around the high. Positioning for this major change is going to be a crucial strategy for the Class40s.
Danish Elliott 35 Palby Marine, skippered by Michael Møllmann sailed within 50 miles of the Norwegian coast before gybing south west. Palby Marine is the leading IRC rated boat on the water. Marie Tabarly's 73ft ketch Pen Duick VI rounded Muckle Flugga just after midnight and is finally enjoying downwind conditions. At the 1000 BST sched. Pen Duick VI is 635 miles from the finish and leading IRC One.
Four boats still racing have yet to round Muckle Flugga. Dirk Lahmann & Wilhelm Demel are racing German Peterson 43 Snifix Dry is 20 miles from the landmark. Stuart Greenfield's S&S 34 Morning After is 40 miles from Muckle Flugga and called in by satellite phone: "The boat is like a sponge, everything is soaked through," commented Stuart. "It's been hard going and we are running low on supplies but we should be fine. I was amazed to hear that two days ago we were leading overall. We didn't have a clue as we have not seen or heard from anyone for four days. It looks like the Sun Fast boats have pulled the trigger downwind, so our lead is over for now, but the wind is due to go on the nose again tomorrow. Morning After is a great boat upwind so we still have high hopes."
Charlene Howard's Sun Odyssey 45 AJ Wanderlust is 60 miles from Muckle Flugga and you would be hard pushed to find anyone with a better positive mental attitude than the American skipper: "This has been a slow race so far but it is not mentally tough if you flip your thought progress," commented Charlene. "AJ Wanderlust and her crew (Robert Drummond) love sailing, so longest on the water wins, right? We just try to enjoy all the magic of nature in its various moods. AJ Wanderlust does not come to start races, she comes to finish them!"
The final boat on the course still racing is Kuba Szymanski & Adrian Kucmin on the First 40.7 Polished Manx II. The Polish team have 100 miles to go to round Muckle Flugga.